American dysfunctional family! Is there anything more comically inspiring than a hard, hilarious look at the reality behind this cliché? "Little Miss Sunshine" shows us a world in which there's a form, a procedure, a job title, a diet, a step-by-step program, a career path, a prize, a retirement community, to sort, categorize and process every human emotion or desire. Nothing exists that cannot be compartmentalized or turned into a self-improvement mantra about "winners and losers."The movie comes closer to the truth about the way people really live--on the edge of fantasy-driven desperation.
Grandpa (Alan Arkin) does heroin. Dad (Greg Kinnear) hopes to become a motivational guru with a dreary nine-step program that asks people to banish their inner losers. Chubby little Olive (Abigail Breslin) is determined to become a prepubescent beauty queen, the Little Miss Sunshine of the title. That goal is not particularly advanced by her brother (Paul Dano) or her uncle (Steve Carell), a Proust scholar coming off a suicide attempt. Mom (Toni Collette) is loving but too distracted to cook.
The whole Hoover family bunch piles into a Volkswagen bus so that Olive can take her shot at the Miss Sunshine crown. The vehicle is a perfect symbol of the family's filmsy grip on reality. The hoover family then , handles every situation in the road-trip , as a comedy , with a touch of darkness.
You just won't see a better acted, and better cast, movie than "Little Miss Sunshine." These actors grasp how unspoken reactions can be funnier than dialogue or punchlines. Alan Arkin,the veteran actor, who steals every scene he's in. He rightfully won a supporting actor Oscar for this role. Steve Carell gives a surprising performance. He gains laughs , but not by doing anything outrageous or extreme. Abigail Bresnan as Olive is very talented , understands her part , and avoids the terminal cuteness that comes with the young actors. Paul Dano does a fine job as a self-imposed dumb teenager.
Only a good directors like Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris could give us a feel-good movie with plenty of laughs and an upbeat ending out of a story that includes drug addiction, a suicide attempt, a death, and Nietzsche. The climactic segment, which ventures into near-horror movie territory with its depiction of seven-year old "beauty queens," is enough to make any sane viewer uncomfortable. Olive’s ‘talent’ spot proves so wildly inappropriate as to be the ultimate damning statement on these pedophile parades. The movie condemns this abusive culture with a mixture of satire and pity.
Little Miss Sunshine got a little bit for everyone, an easily identifiable premise that makes anyone who thought their family was the nuttiest feel a little closer to normal. It is a film for all those people who have tried and failed. The characters are life’s losers and they provide mirror images of so many of us. There is no great happy ending or profound message in Little Miss Sunshine except to suggest that success is relative, nobody is alone in feeling disappointment and family is important after all – even if they do drive us crazy. It is about losing, failing and the dignity in doing so once you accept that maybe the conventional definitions of success are as hollow and ugly as a child beauty pageant.
Little Miss Sunshine is a heart-felt, thought provoking satirical comedy.